Experiences of a Relocated Community in Colombo : Case Study of Sinhapura, Wanathamulla


experiences in relocated communitiesThis report is about a relocated community in Sinhapura, in Wanathamulla, Colombo, Sri Lanka. Sinhapura is a government housing complex in two phases, each with 60 apartments built for relocating residents from two shanty communities in Colombo, namely 54 watta in Wanathamulla and 186 watta in Colombo 7. These relocatees have been displaced from their watta communities due to developmental projects undertaken by the Government of Sri Lanka.

The community profile was undertaken as part of a three-year longitudinal study funded by IDRC and DfiD under the Safe and Inclusive Cities (SAIC) project (107361-001). A survey that took place during the first year of the project, covering over 800 relocated households in Colombo, provided the background necessary for the community profiling exercise that took place during the second year of the project. The objective of the community profile was to explore the issues and concerns identified during the survey in more depth, and to identify the mechanisms adopted by this group of people in adapting to their new location and(sometimes) new issues and problems. The community profile paid particular attention to how relocated people adapt their livelihood, education, service accessibility and economic,social and political life to suit the new physical and social environment.

In-depth interviews with residents, government officials and key informants, and focus group discussions with males and females of different age groups were the key methods of data collection. Observation data was also gathered during frequent visits made to the community.Given the generally accepted view of Wanathamulla as a place of violence, the research team was particularly concerned about the safety of the researchers and the political culture of the community in designing a framework for data collection. Care was taken to ensure that data collection activities would have zero or least disturbance on the residents‟ livelihood activities, mostly casual labour for a daily wage.

Sinhapura comprises two phases; Phase 1 being constructed in 2007 and Phase 2 in 2011.Residents of Phase 1 come mainly from 54 watta, an ex-shanty community that was located very close to Phase 1. The majority of the residents of Phase 2 have come from 187 watta, in Torrington, Colombo 7. The displacement and relocation experiences of the two groups have been different. Phase 1 residents can be said to be experiencing the least amount of culture
shock as they have only changed their house and not their geographical location. However,the residents of Phase 2 have had to change both their house as well as its location. They have more complaints and unpleasant memories of having to adapt to a culture very different to that of Colombo 7. Wanathamulla is notorious for violence and criminal activities whereas Colombo 7 is known for a more affluent lifestyle (though 187 watta residents would have occupied a more marginal area within Colombo 7).Displacement experiences for Phase 1 residents have involved some amounts of violence as they had been forced out of their houses by the military. Parts of their houses had been broken down, compelling them to leave their houses. Phase 2 residents have experienced violence during displacement in the form of false promises from politicians and government officials. They had been promised a housing complex at the same location as 187 watta and were paid Rs. 200,0001 as rent money to find a house for two years till the complex was built.

Experiences of a Relocated Community – (PDF)